Iowa forward Tyler Cook discusses his offseason plan after his sophomore year ended at the Big Ten Tournament. Chad Leistikow/The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Eighteen months ago, Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery introduced freshman forward Tyler Cook with these bold words:
“He probably has the highest ceiling” of any Hawkeye prospect in the coach’s eight years here.
After two impressive seasons, in which Cook approached but never quite hit that ceiling, he announced Friday that he is going to measure his NBA Draft prospects. Cook has not hired an agent, which gives him until June 11 to withdraw his name from the draft and potentially return to Iowa.
"After talking with the coaches and my family, I am going to test the NBA Draft process," Cook said in a statement released by Iowa. "It is my dream to play professionally and not hiring an agent at this time allows me to see where I stand. I am following God's plan and I am thankful for this opportunity. I appreciate all of the support that I continue to receive from Hawkeye nation."
Cook, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound power forward for the Hawkeyes, projects as a center in the pro ranks. He led Iowa in scoring (15.3 points per game), rebounding (6.8) and dunks (60 total) during a disappointing sophomore season that concluded with a 14-19 record.
Cook said then that he was weighing his options of whether to return for his junior season. If he leaves it would create a big void for a team that would then be in rebuilding mode two years after going 19-15 while breaking in six freshmen, led by Cook.
"Tyler should take advantage of this opportunity and we fully support his decision," McCaffery said in the statement. "I have spoken with Tyler and his family in depth and believe this is the right decision. This relatively new rule is a positive one for those in pursuit of their professional dreams. Peter Jok went through it in 2016, and found it to be beneficial as it allows athletes to gather information through workouts and interviews from NBA personnel. We will assist Tyler every way we can throughout this process."
Jok returned to Iowa for his senior season and eventually went undrafted. He is playing in the NBA G-League.
Cook is not considered a surefire NBA prospect at this point in his career.
Sam Vecenie, a national basketball writer for The Athletic website, told the Register this winter: “It would help him I think to be able to move his feet a little better in space. He’s a good athlete, certainly. He’s explosive. He’s a good finisher around the basket, for sure. There are a lot of players Tyler Cook’s size who can do those things who can also bring more to the table. Especially in an NBA where guys who are 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, they’re becoming marginalized in a lot of ways.”
Cook was a consensus top-100 recruit coming out of Chaminade Prep in St. Louis, Missouri. He chose Iowa over the likes of Kansas and Connecticut.
Cook averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a Hawkeye freshmen, missing seven games with a broken finger.
He is a strong athlete, able to contend with the Big Ten Conference’s best low-post players in his two years. Cook’s field-goal percentage of 56.6 percent was the second-best ever for a Hawkeye sophomore.
He also was the leader of the team, quick with a smile and always willing to point out areas where the team, himself included, needed to improve.
That primarily was defense, where Cook’s strength and leaping ability never translated to above-average production. He registered only 31 blocked shots in his two years. He also struggled with turnovers at times, facing double-teams from a number of opponents. Cook committed 147 of them in his two seasons.
Iowa would try to replace Cook with junior forwards Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener, and perhaps sophomore Jack Nunge, if he left. None have Cook’s ceiling, but all have been effective at times.